I am here today and I hope you are impressed. I really don’t want to be here. I have a cold and would rather be in bed. Except that I know I would feel equally horrible in bed so I might as well be awake and vertical. That’s four sentences so far, none of which use the word “shitty” or “crap” and I hope you’re impressed by that, if nothing else.
So, since I am basically self-employed (although I pay myself nothing there are still a few perks like having a great boss) I elect to take a sick day today and reprint my favorite essay on colds. This one was written years ago during the Christmas season. While I am convalescing I’ll dig out the “Ideas to Ponder” folder and see if I can come up with better words next week.
It’s time for my annual Christmas Cold. The few times I’ve gone to the doctor for this, they would always refer to it as the common cold. I always take exception to the word “common.” I never feel like the cold I have is common. Indeed, it always the worst cold in the world; it’s the one that will kill an elephant, it could destroy entire civilizations and render armies helpless. It is the Cold From Hell, the Mother of all Colds, the Queen Cold. It is anything but common.
And I know where I get it: Christmas shopping. I’m walking around a crowded Wal-Mart, innocently pushing my cart, watching women scream at their kids, doing my best to stimulate the American economy and all these people are BREATHING on me! I considered wearing a surgical mask and maybe even gloves to create a barrier from germs. I decided I would look too much like Michael Jackson so I dropped the idea. I open the restroom doors with my elbows, hands held high like I’m going into surgery.
There is no time in the year that it’s worse to have a cold than Christmas. There’s all that shopping, cooking and cleaning. And all those distant relatives to be NICE to. And, at Christmastime, even your own family expects you to be nice to them. Talk about an energy sapping event. And how do you feel? Like a walking corpse. Like a mutilated and rotting, walking corpse. Your head feels like a block of concrete and weighs a ton. Your eyes itch and your nose burns. Moving hurts, sitting still hurts. Breathing hurts. Swallowing, coughing, bending hurts. Watching TV hurts.
So what do you do? You run right back to the store where all those people who infected you to start with are and you line up to buy medicine. Except you don’t know what to buy because there are 12 billion choices and you know deep in your heart that none of them will actually work. But, you pick out about five of them anyway and throw them in the basket. You load up on chicken soup, Seven Up and popsicles; cold season is the one time of the year a grownup can buy popsicles guilt-free. Then you add any home remedy your mother ever used like Mentholatum. Actually, Mentholatum works wonders. The smell your body emits after a good rub down with this stuff will announce to the world that you are seriously dying and get you a modicum of sympathy. Or, at least, a clear walking path.
You get throat drops and cough drops. Aspirin, Alka-Seltzer, eye drops. Five boxes of Kleenex. Then, when you get to the checker and unload this basket full of enough drugs to cure Finland, the checker says in a cheery voice that “It looks like you have a cold.” So you sneeze on her and hope she gets it. Immediately the store intercom begins a recording of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Man.”